A Memoir

Former elite swimmer Kim Fairley smashed national records, competed in the Olympic Trials, was the second woman ever to receive a full scholarship for swimming at USC, and trained alongside some of the greatest swimmers of her time. But at what cost?

A peek into the dark side of elite swimming as well as a tale of family bonds, Swimming for My Life offers a rare, up-close look at struggles that are often obscured, and how the very events that scar us most deeply can also save our lives.

“Thank goodness there is a writer like Kim Fairley who has the skills, talent, and heart to bring us into the world of ultra-competitive sports for children. . . Pulled along by her propulsive writing style, with an eye for emotionally evocative details, you experience her plight . . . Five stars and highest praise for this page-turning book, I couldn’t put it down!”

—Lindsay C. Gibson, Psy.D. Author of Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents and Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents.

2022 Finalist for Inspiring & Uplifting Nonfiction
2023 Distinguished Favorite for Memoir

"Fairley’s pure, raw honesty keeps you wanting to read page after page as she starts to question whether she is living her dream or someone else’s.”

--Dara Torres, 12x Olympic medalist, Swimming, Author, Broadcaster, Model

"Kim has written another page turner that will appeal to anyone who has ever lived in a dysfunctional family or competed in a sport for the benefit of someone else's identity or dreams."

--Christi Vedejs, Author of The Deep End: An Elite Swimmer's Struggle with Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

Much like Kim’s first book, Shooting Out the Lights, Kim writes with stunning candor, revealing personal challenges and crises with skill and engrossing detail. Swimming for My Life is a tale of family bonds, as much as it is a peek into the world of elite swimming. Fairley’s writing is authentic. Her story is absorbing. This book is a jewel. 

--Julie R. McGue, Author of Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging


". . . a must read for all parents who every day leave their children in the care of others.”

— Donna de Varona, Olympic Gold medalist, author, broadcaster, member of the Executive Board of the USOPC


"This compelling book will make you squirm, pray, and applaud Kim's resilience."

--Judith Ruskay Rabinor, PhD, Consultant, The Renfrew Center Foundation, Author of The Girl in the Red Boots: Making Peace with My Mother

In 1979, the Real People television show featured women lifeguards in Los Angeles County. Filled with dangerous riptides, the South Bay was said to have been one of the most dangerous areas for ocean swimming in the United States.

I competed with several hundred men and about twenty women in a 1000-meter open water swim, where I finished with four other women in the top thirty.

The opportunity to be on TV was exciting, but the interviewer insisted that we wear only our bathing suits. Feeling self-conscious about my weight, I refused to take off my jacket. We argued for a few minutes, and men representing the show threatened to keep me out of the episode. Still, I refused to give in. Eventually, the interviewer shrugged and said, "Fine. Wear the darned  jacket." To this day, I'm so glad I did.

Book cover high res

". . . the author’s writing is evocative, and her story is both unique and intriguing. . . difficult to put down.

A captivating family account that delivers compelling, acutely observant writing."

--Kirkus Reviews

"Shooting Out the Lights is an exquisite memoir that analyzes what brought a couple together to face loss and their shattered hopes with enduring love."

--Foreword Reviews

Booklife, by Publishers Weekly,  Interview with Kim

"I think that all readers may connect to moments in their lives in which they have been pushed beyond their limits, have had to say 'enough is enough,' and have discovered in the process that, though it may not be immediate, there is a payoff for drawing that line." 

Click here to see images from Pola Esther's exhibition about Ruth Anne Coxe at the Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.


A Memoir

“You were a preservationist, and I needed preserving,” Fairley's husband liked to joke.  He was thirty-two years older and struggling to cope with the tragic death of his son, Ben, who was fourteen.

Fairley writes about the impact of her husband's grief in Shooting Out the Lights, a May-December love story that explores the ongoing, wrenching aftermath of gun violence and the healing that comes from confronting the past.

Midwest Best Regional Nonfiction
Finalist (Parenting & Family)
Distinguished Favorite (Memoir)

The Shooting Out the Lights book trailer, created by Jacques and Christina Mersereau at Day and Night Media, was featured on Shelf Awareness as Book Trailer of the Day!

This video about Ruth Anne Coxe is part of an exhibition by artist Pola Esther at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. The show was on view from September 30, 2017, through January 29, 2018.

The museum described the exhibition as "a portrait of the complex and unconventional activist Ruth Anne Brown Coxe, who died at age 85 in 2015. Coxe was an embattled figure who clashed with others on politics, womanhood, and religion."

The contemporary photographer, Pola Esther, lived in Coxe's neighborhood and was moved to create a mixed-media portrait of Coxe. As a result, Esther's photographs and installation pieces provide a vivid picture of Coxe, the mother of Stanislaus, one of the central characters in "Shooting Out the Lights."

Boreal Ties: Photographs and Two Diaries of the 1901 Peary Relief Expedition

". . . the stories of these famed Arctic explorers, and the native people with whom they came in contact, are told photographically through unique, absolutely gorgeous, and technically outstanding photographs . . . the absolute best of historic Arctic photography."

--Katherine Kirkpatrick, author of The Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Admiral Robert E. Peary's Daring Daughter and Between Two Worlds.


Photographs and Two Diaries of the 1901 Peary Relief Expedition

In 1899 Robert Peary, exploring northern Greenland in search of the North Pole, lost seven toes to frostbite but refused to cut his exploration short to seek treatment. When his wife learned of his condition, she and their seven-year-old daughter set off in July 1900 to find Peary and persuade him to come home. The 1901 expedition documented in this fascinating book was organized to deliver supplies to Peary and to search for his wife and child.


 “Maybe nostalgia is a form of longing. It aches for history . . . My place. My people.”

    —Patricia Hampl,  Author of The Florist's Daughter